As my tour of duty as a cashier at Oregon Mountain Community nears its end, I feel obligated to record, for posterity, the various thoughts, annoyances, and tidbits of wisdom I have gleaned from this, my first experience in Retail Land.

By all means, dear customer, feel free to clutter the checkout counter with your selections as you continue to shop, rather than using the baskets we have provided you.

I've never seen this behavior in any other store, but for some reason, a good 50% of customers at OMC have this annoying habit of using the checkout counter as their shopping basket. They'll select an item they want, bring it to the counter, leave it there, then continue shopping (and repeat). While there are many signs in our store, none of them recommends doing this. And yet, a large enough number of customers do this, independently of one another, that I think it must be some established practice that I wasn't previously aware of.

It's not that I'm opposed to helping make a customer's shopping experience more convenient, it's just that by piling their junk on our one tiny checkout stand, they make it inconvenient for other customers, who have to somehow fit their own loot on the counter so a cashier can ring it up.

Even worse are the customers who literally shop all day, adding to an ever-growing pile on the counter, right up until closing time. And then, thinking they're being nice by not forcing us to ring up their massive collection of crap after we've just closed, they tell us they'll be back for it tomorrow. So we have to move all this crap behind the counter, somehow manage not to trip over, lose, or break any of it despite the cramped space.

For some reason, some customers think that store employees can read their minds and know when they need help.

OMC is a very casual, laid-back store. It's an outdoor store, selling mostly hiking, backpacking, camping, climbing, and skiing equipment, and the type of people who work there are for the most part very relaxed, happy people. We're not a big chain, we're just one store, so we don't wear goofy little uniforms or nametags. But you can tell we're employees because we stand behind desks and answer phones and occasionally ask people if they need help.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to ask every customer in the store, every few minutes, if they need help. So, while we try to be attentive to the needs of our customers, it is not uncommon for several employees to get into a conversation while a quiet customer stands just out of sight, silently willing an employee to ask her if she needs help.

And of course, as the first person the customer sees on their way in and the last person they see on their way out, I'm the one they seem to view as being somehow in charge (even though I'm at the lowest rung in the ladder), and I'm the one they complain to.

Really, I assure you, dear customers, we want to help. We are happy to help. But we can't read minds. It is our job to help, and we get paid for us, so by all means, interrupt our conversations with each other. We really do understand. But don't stand there quietly for twenty minutes and then bitch at the cashier for the lousy mind-reading abilities of the staff.

Stores like ours are in business to make money. So no, we won't let you return sunglasses you stepped on, or hiking boots you've worn for a year and decided you don't like, or underwear with your poopmarks in the crotch. If we can't resell it, you can't return it.

We really do have one of the most liberal return policies you'll get. We'll take anything back as long as you bought it from us, and it's in good (i.e., resellable) condition, and it isn't underwear that has been worn. This isn't hard to grasp.

Now, when you try to return a pair of worn-out, muddy hiking boots that we don't even stock (and never have), that you claim to have bought from us a year ago, don't get mad when we tell you we can't help you. Okay?

If you have a shopping addiction and shouldn't be buying things, don't come into our store. And for godssake, if you do, don't tell us about your shopping addiction while having us demonstrate every pair of sunglasses for you while you try to stuff one more pair into your overflowing shopping basket.

I couldn't help laughing when a woman babbled endlessly about her problem with shopping addiction, all while handing me her credit card and consenting to having me charge it for several hundred dollars worth of sunglasses and accessories. What did she expect me to do for her? Refuse to take her money? That's not my job.

Do not try to sell insurance to the cashiers. Seriously. We don't like that.

A large piggish oaf of a woman recently waddled into the store, browsed around for twenty minutes, and then plodded up to the counter and started making idle conversation with me. She wasn't buying anything, and for all I could discern, she was just lonely and in need of attention (we get people like that a lot, sadly).

After a few minutes of conversation, during which she asked me various personal questions like where I live and how old I am, she asked if we (the store) were happy with our insurance policy. Not knowing a damn thing about the store's insurance policy, I said I hadn't a clue. She then proceeded to try to convince me to buy insurance on the store's behalf, despite my attempts to explain to her that I was merely a cashier, with absolutely no ability to do any of the things she wanted me to do.

In the process of trying to sell me this insurance, she repeatedly got in the way of customers I was trying to help, and interrupted me several times while I was speaking to another customer. Finally, I asked her to stop bothering me so I could do my job, and her face twisted up as if I had hit her, her eyes got all tear, and she screamed, "Well excuse me for trying to do my job!"

Fucking fatass.

Our store hours are posted right there on the door: 10am to 7pm weekdays, 10am to 6pm Saturdays, and 12pm to 5pm Sundays.

We know we're not open from dawn until midnight like many of your favorite discount department stores. We can't afford to be. And we really, really don't appreciate it when you come bounding in at 7:02 as we're on our way to lock the doors, and then, when we politely tell you that we're closed, you loudly yell, "What?!? You close at seven? Well FUCK THAT!". We tried being polite, despite your obvious inability to read a large sign with red letters on a white background. This doesn't give you the right to scream obscenities at us.

In closing...

I've enjoyed working at OMC. My previous jobs were all blue-collar desk jobs, and having to take a retail job for a while has given me a better understanding of just how much work retail employees do, and what a thankless job many of them have. And surprisingly, though it sounds otherwise, the majority of the customers I encountered really were very nice.